This is probably something that we should talk about a little more often.
I’m going to give you a little background information. Then I’m going to show you a few easy ways that you can adapt your escape rooms to make them fully playable for players with colorblindness.
You can make your escape rooms playable for people with colorblindness with minimal effort and without spending any additional money.
Finally, the improvements that you make for players with colorblindness will improve the game for normal-sighted players as well.
“Accessible design is a design process in which the needs of people with disabilities are specifically considered.” (Washington.edu)
There are times where it isn’t possible to create something that can be universally experienced in the same way. However, there are ways to ensure that the thing can be experienced at all.
Professionally in my life as a digital UX designer, I’ve been practicing and advocating for accessible design for over a decade. I’ve written a white paper on this and given talks on the subject. (I no longer work for Phase2, but I’m still proud of this talk.):
Designing Escape Rooms For Colorblindness
How do we design escape rooms for colorblindness?
Most people with colorblindness can see color. They just don’t see it in the same way that normal-sighted folks see it. While monochromacy is a thing, it is incredibly rare.
With that in mind, here are 3 techniques that I recommend.
The Coblis — Color Blindness Simulator is a free web app that allows you to upload images and see what they look like to people with different types of colorblindness.
And yes, you read that correctly, there are a number of different forms of colorblindness. Red-green colorblindness is the most common by a wide margin and gets all of the attention.
How Do I Use This?
Run images of your puzzles, designs, and interactions through the simulator and ensure that there is enough contrast that the colors appear different from one another.
In general, high color contrast helps.
That’s the key. Just make sure that every player has the opportunity to visually differentiate relevant colors from one another.
This is the same image run through the simulator to visualize different forms of colorblindness:
If you’re planning to use color as an indicator, add another layer such as a texture or a symbol.
Combining colors with symbols means that players aren’t in the position where they have to communicate color. They can communicate by the corresponding symbol if they so choose.
Similarly, adding a unique background texture that corresponds with the color can provide another way to differentiate between, say, purple and blue.
We beat this drum often: provide adequate lighting.
If you’re using low lighting for atmosphere, that can be cool. Please provide spotlighting for workspaces, puzzles, and inputs.
This will help improve the experience for all of your players, not just your players with colorblindness.
The Bottom Line
Make the experience a bit smoother for everyone by improving color contrast, giving people more than just color to identify gameplay components, and providing good lighting.
There are disabilities that are truly difficult to design around. We may explore those in the future. Colorblindness, however, is one that doesn’t have to be a problem most of the time.